Livermore, California (EastBayDaily) — Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory computational scientist Amanda Randles has received a Director's Early Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The NIH Common Fund award provides funding to encourage exceptional young scientists to pursue "high risk, high reward" independent research in biomedical and behavioral science. Randles will receive about $2.5 million over five years. The funding will allow her to pursue research to develop a way of predicting likely sites for cancer to metastasize; a method that combines personalized massively parallel computational models and experimental approaches.
"I'm honored and incredibly excited," Randles said. "It will allow me to pursue the research that I'm most interested in and help me set up a team to achieve these goals. Having five years of funding to pursue a high-risk project at this stage in my career is an unbelievable opportunity."
The goal of the project is to develop a method to simulate flow of realistic levels of cells through the circulatory system, thereby gaining insight into mechanisms that underlie disease progression and localization. "Building a detailed, realistic model of human blood flow is a formidable mathematical and computational challenge requiring large-scale fluid models as well as explicit models of suspended bodies like red blood cells," she said. "This will require high-resolution modeling of cells in the blood stream, and necessitate significant computational advances."
Randles will build on HARVEY, a parallel fluid dynamics application designed to model hemodynamics in patient-specific geometries, with the goal of further validating computational results through rigorous comparison with in vivo and in vitro measurements.
"Through the aid of this award, I will be able to expand the scope of projects to address not only vascular diseases, but also the movement of circulating tumor cells in the bloodstream," Randles said. "In close collaboration with researchers and physicians at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women's Hospital, I am working to establish a robust research platform that can have direct impact on patient care. By studying the impact of cell characteristics on the movement of circulating tumor cells, we hope to gain better understanding of the mechanisms driving cancer metastasis to inform clinical decisions and improve treatment options."
Randles, a Lawrence Fellow, works in the LLNL Computation Directorate's Center for Applied Scientific Computing. She completed her Ph.D. in applied physics from Harvard University in 2013 with a secondary field in computational science. For the "amazing opportunity" the NIH award represents she credits LLNL's Lawrence Fellowship and her colleagues. "Everyone at Livermore has been very supportive of my research goals and in helping me prepare for each stage of the application process," Randles said.
Randles was one of 85 recipients of the 2014 NIH Common Fund grants, which come in four categories: Pioneer Award, New Innovator Award, Transformative Research Award and Early Independence. The total funding (which represents contributions from the NIH Common Fund and multiple NIH institutes, centers and offices), is approximately $141 million. More information on current awardees and the NIH High Risk-High Reward Research Program can be found on the Web.